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Subject: Board game design, interview? rss

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Pär Tagesson
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Yo guys!

I'm currently designing a boardgame called Northern Star for my bachelors thesis. Basically I'm designing both a game and a design process.

I would love if you may take the time to answer these questions regarding game design:

1. How long have you been into boardgaming?

2. What do you find the most important aspect in regards to board game design?

3. What kind of board games have you designed so far?

4. What do you find the most time-consuming moment in board game design?

5. Would you please briefly (or if you want the long story) how you choose to design a board game? What's the process?

6. What's good about it?

7. What could be better?

And that's it.
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Peter G
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Create a Poll

Not a board game designer...

But I can say that you will likely get more responses if you set up a poll instead of just a thread like this.

This will allow for easier participation and a way to make multiple choice answers for those too lazy to do a write up.

Not to mention that it will be much more straightforward for you to interpret data of those that decide to contribute.
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Eric Miller
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Agreed on the poll. Where/how/what are you looking for for answers? If we all post here in the thread, it's quite likely to get off-topic pretty quickly...
 
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Rob Harper
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Come on, these are open ended interview-like questions, intended to find out more about people, and not something that would translate to a poll. I don't really have the spoons to address them at the moment (they actually look so open-ended that I'd feel a need to write a lengthy essay!), but hopefully someone will be able to help.
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Peter G
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polyobsessive wrote:
Come on, these are open ended interview-like questions, intended to find out more about people, and not something that would translate to a poll. I don't really have the spoons to address them at the moment (they actually look so open-ended that I'd feel a need to write a lengthy essay!), but hopefully someone will be able to help.


The last few questions are definitely qualitative/long form, but the first 3-4 questions could easily be translated to multiple choice
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BagOTricks
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1. 40 years

2. Having only designed one game myself the most important aspect of the process for me was finding an idea that I could fit into a single deck of cards. This was a design constraint I set for myself because it would be very easy and relatively cheap to get it printed professionally.

3. The game I've designed is a stripped down version of a table-top miniatures game that uses only the cards in a regular sized deck as components. One card is your character and you manage a deck of action cards to move, throw and duck your opponents throws. Other cards are used for terrain and video-game-like pickups.

4. Playtesting (and playtesting, and playtesting) and writing (and rewriting...) the rulebook consumed the largest parts of my time but that paled in comparison to getting the artwork to a workable place. We lucked out and my wife was able to incorporate that effort into her coursework for an art degree but it's been at least 6-10 hours a week for months.

5. I've always been interested in games and designing one was definitely on my bucket list. I decided that I'd like a project for my wife and I to work on together and figured if I could cram a game into a deck of cards it would be cheap and easy to print. I began work on the game itself while discussing art options with my wife. Then when I solidified the design we changed the theme to be more in line with her art style and she got to work.

For me the design process was relatively easy. I had in mind the kind of game I wanted and the format it would take (a deck of cards). From there I just started playing around with different ideas fully intending to make a very generic tank battle game simply for the sake of being able to say I made a game. I was intending on having separate characters and vehicles which would combine stats to affect game play which primarily consisted of dice throws to determine combat outcomes. I thought most of my effort would be spent balancing the math. I was getting pretty close to a final version of that game when I started toying with the idea of having everything baked into the cards. I got stuck on the idea of having everything you'd need to play the game in that one deck of cards which would increase portability and accessibility. After playing around with some early prototypes I hit on (what I believe to be) a unique idea for handling the combat and movement in the game. The more I played with it the more I liked it and the more it felt like a better approach than my initial "rip-off Car Wars" idea. Once I fully let go of my initial idea and embraced this new one the rest of it seemed to fall into place almost by magic.

6. What's good about the process of designing or what's good about a game I designed? Not entirely sure what you're asking there.

What's good about the process is creative expression. It's the same reason people write books or songs or paint pictures or take photographs. Adding something to the world that you think is missing or that speaks to you in a way that other things don't.

If you're meaning what's good about the game I'm definitely proud of the movement and combat system that I've come up with. I haven't seen it implemented elsewhere and it accomplishes my initial goal of a game in a deck of cards.

7. We are living in a golden age in regards to board game design. The fact that this site exists and that there are so many people willing to share ideas and assist others in their endeavors is astonishing. The access to software tools for prototyping (shout-out nanDeck!) and production is unprecedented. The idea space has never been larger and the interest in board gaming in general never greater. I don't think I'm smart enough to see how things could be better other than maybe having more free time to devote to the pursuit.

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Fires
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1. 4 Years

2. *Fun* *Replayability* *Theme*

3. Battle Royale/Negotiation *** Exporation/Deckbuilding

4. Playtesting

5. I pick a mechanic and then a theme and go from there. Adding side mechanics, unique elements like asymmetrical or abstract components. Then make an at home prototype, playtest and balance, hire art or do it myself, and then use gamecrafter for factory prototype and find a publisher.

6. Solid structure for me. Base to pillars to roof rather than roof to foundation and windows.. I like building from the bottom up.

7. Playtesting phase is always a process. Takes a long time to find the balances and niches of the game.
 
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Ryan Byrd
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1. 8 Years

2. Complete/solid rules

3. A fencing card game, a car combat with dice and tracks and upgrades, a fighting robot, a fantasy adventure on a map with character progression, a solo story telling adventure, a 2-player perfect information card game where you outwit your opponent, a light game about being at camp, a space opera. Most of my designs tend to have variable set up that make each game different and they tend to focus on player choice throughout.

4. Playesting/iterating and finalizing rules

5. Sometimes I like a theme and design around it. Sometimes I like a mechanic and fit a theme around it. I write out design goals so I keep the game play as simple as possible and to guide my design. I bang out a simple prototype and test each core mechanic/part. I use spreadsheets to track part count/stats in design with probability to keep things balanced (to limit iterations). I write out basic rules to see what is missing from the game. I never put much time into a prototype until I feel things are fairly stable. Then I play test and take notes. Then I iterate...

6. Clear design goals keeps things in check and prevents the rules from going out of control with having to explain edge cases.

7. Time to iterate and more blind play testing.
 
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Matt The GM
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1. 42 years

2. Getting the various mechanics to mesh smoothly, while keeping enough player agency to keep it interesting and fun. I tend to design big, sandboxy games because those are what I enjoy most. Balancing them is vital.

3. A bit of everything: Dudes on a map, an aggressive deckbuilder with negotiation, an ameritrash style dungeon crawler/arena, resource engine, rpg metasystem. Working on a legacy card driven rpg adventure system, and a mech wargame.

4. Physically making the pieces and cards (I tend to need a lot...)

5. I don't choose, it's whenever an idea hits me I start to play around with it (mentally at first and then scribbling down ideas in a crazy mindmap type system on an A4 pad. I tend to spend more time visualising ideas and systems in my head and seeing what might work together than actually writing. Reading other peoples design blogs, I don't think I follow the usual methods. I skip over the early playtesting methods, by the time I'm making components and cards I pretty much know where the game is going.

6. I can't design games to order (don't ask me to enter a 24hr design competition). I never try to force inspiration.

7. My design process is pretty much a solo affair. I could probably benefit from learning to collaborate with others and bounce ideas around. However, I think it would be hard to mesh our design processes since mine is so off the wall...
 
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Jake Staines
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Bindle wrote:

1. How long have you been into boardgaming?


I'd guess about 35 years? I'm 39 later this year, so that seems about right. I don't remember a part of my life when I wasn't 'into' boardgaming.

If you mean "hardcore hobby boardgaming of the kind that gets people poking around the BGG forums", probably about fifteen years.

Bindle wrote:

2. What do you find the most important aspect in regards to board game design?


Iteration. Playtest as frequently as you can, look for parts of your game that either don't work the way you wanted them to work or (sometimes just as importantly) don't work the way your players wanted them to work, and try changes that you feel should improve them. Repeat until you can't find anything else that could be improved!


Bindle wrote:

3. What kind of board games have you designed so far?


Is it too glib to say "the kind people play on tables with pieces and end-game goals and so on"?

Of the top of my head, I've designed:
- A couple of auction games
- At least one race game
- Some solo games and some multiplayer games
- A 4X-a-like that didn't work as well as I'd have liked
- A dexterity combat game
- A bag-building game and a deck-building game which feel like different concepts even though I know they're not really
- A game about forward planning.

In-progress I have:
- A better iteration of the original 4X concept
- A different kind of 4X/empire-builder based around a mancala rondel
- A 2-player competitive card game intended to capture the same feel as NetRunner without just being derivative
- A legacy-based civilisation game
- A 2-player card-driven fighting game based around stances that isn't getting much brain traction probably because I already enjoy BattleCon and Exceed enough.
- A social-deduction team game that's more game game than something like the infinite number of Werewolf or Resistance clones.
- Another iteration and re-theme of the forward-planning game.

Bindle wrote:

4. What do you find the most time-consuming moment in board game design?


Playtesting.

Wait, actually: finding people to playtest.

Bindle wrote:

5. Would you please briefly (or if you want the long story) how you choose to design a board game? What's the process?


The steps are something along the lines of:

- Think of a 'cool central idea' that I like the sound of enough that I don't forget about it by the next day.
- Write down notes of how said idea could translate into a core game system.
- Flesh out possiblities in said notes as and when inspiration strikes. I carry a notebook most places for the reason of these last two points. It's better that I take a couple of minutes out of my working day to write an idea down than have it intruding on my conscious thought while I'm trying to be productive at my actual job.
- When I feel like the idea is ready, mock up some components - usually with parts from other games or my PnP spares library, guillotine-cut rectangles of printer paper against cheap playing cards in cheap sleeves, etc. - and try it out on my own.
- That inevitably finds problems, so I iterate over that until I can play through the game on my own against myself without finding horrific issues.
- Try and persuade some friends or family to give it a go.
- Iterate.
- Try and persuade some people I don't know so well to give it a go. Local games groups are worth hitting up for both these steps.
- Iterate.
- Keep repeating all the above steps until I'm relatively happy with the game.


Bindle wrote:

6. What's good about it?


I develop games at my own pace. I'm not desperate to get published (in fact of the games I list above I only really have a particular ambition to get one of them published, and even that doesn't extend to bothering publishers about it) and I don't want to rush designs out, I'd rather sit on a thing for years than do a shoddy job of it.

Bindle wrote:

7. What could be better?


If I knew that I'd be doing it!

I guess I could always do with more and more-regular playtesting. Couldn't everyone?
 
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Rob Harper
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Finally found some time and energy.

Bindle wrote:
1. How long have you been into boardgaming?


I've been playing board and card games pretty much all my life, but I guess my entry into hobby games was about 35 years ago.

Bindle wrote:
2. What do you find the most important aspect in regards to board game design?


Understanding feedback from playtesters. What they tell you or suggest is not always directly helpful, but combining with feedback from other testers and observations of what people do and say during play can allow you to build a proper picture of what elements of the design need work.

Bindle wrote:
3. What kind of board games have you designed so far?


Quite a lot of different stuff, mostly relatively lightweight games, and mostly card based, and mostly more Euro-style than not.

Bindle wrote:
4. What do you find the most time-consuming moment in board game design?


Playtesting. Specifically the part where the game is mostly right, but just isn't quite there. The point where you are 90% done and then realise you only have the other 90% to go.

Bindle wrote:
5. Would you please briefly (or if you want the long story) how you choose to design a board game? What's the process?


It's just one of those things I have to do. Ideas are always bouncing around. Usually the point when I properly get started is when I have an idea for a theme and a mechanism that goes along with it. At that point I try to make a rough prototype as soon as I can.

The first prototype doesn't have to be the full game, and it is usually hand written on a bunch of paper and cards, using whatever other components I need from my stash. The aim is to try out the basics and see if I think it is worth paying more attention to. Sometimes I just ditch the idea after this, and sometimes I move on. This initial testing is usually done on my own, but if someone is around to help, they may get roped in.

If I move on with a game, I usually soon make some basic printable files that I can update as I go forward. These are usually very simple at first, and I gradually improve them as I iterate on the design. When making cards or tokens, my main tool of choice is nanDECK.

My next prototype is usually a nearly-complete game, though often not enough for a full player count, or enough turns, but should give a good idea of how things are going.

It's then a case of test, update prototype, test again, and repeat...

I usually work on more than one game in parallel in this way, switching between them every now and then.

Sooner or later I tend to run out of steam, so I put the game on the shelf for a while and move on to another project. Sometimes this other project is new, and sometimes it is one of my older, shelved projects which I can then look at afresh and make new progress with.

Bindle wrote:
6. What's good about it?


I am generally progressing 2 or 3 games at a time, and rarely get bored as I can cycle through the projects to keep things fresh for myself. It also means that, as my playtesting opportunities can be limited, I can always work on something before the next playtest.

Bindle wrote:
7. What could be better?


Doing things this way means that I am not so good at the pushing forward to polish games to be their very best possible. It's that final bit of grinding out that I am not good at.
 
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Pär Tagesson
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Guys! Feel very grateful for all answers! Thank you so much.

I will compile these answers into a list of important aspects and release that as a general design-process for board game design. Perhaps like a choose your own adventure structure or a game-map. I'll post it to anyone interested.

Kind regards,

Pär
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Ryan Byrd
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polyobsessive wrote:

Playtesting. Specifically the part where the game is mostly right, but just isn't quite there. The point where you are 90% done and then realise you only have the other 90% to go.


I love this. So true.
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Rob Harper
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ryan_c_byrd wrote:
polyobsessive wrote:

Playtesting. Specifically the part where the game is mostly right, but just isn't quite there. The point where you are 90% done and then realise you only have the other 90% to go.


I love this. So true.


I can't take credit for it! I think I heard Matt Leacock (IIRC) saying something about being 90% done, only the other 90% to go. A man with much wisdom.
 
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